Rocket Powerplay Hands Utica a 2-1 Loss in Overtime
LAVAL - The divisional rival Laval Rocket and Utica Comets faced off for the second time in as many days at Place Bell on Saturday afternoon, where the 5 914 fans in attendance were treated to a tight, low-scoring game that saw the Rocket defeat the Comets 2-1 in overtime during their second of eight matchups this season.
The rivalry between the two teams and the tension from the night before could be felt from the get-go, with both teams playing a physical opening period that ended scoreless but with Joël Bouchard's players leading 6-5 in shots on goal. Both teams also had a look on the powerplay in the first period, but the penalty killers shut them down.
With the game scoreless, tensions continued to rise in the second period which led to Brett Lernout and Vincent Arseneau dropping the gloves in hopes of giving their respective teams the momentum they needed to get the game's opening goal. Utica ended up getting said goal at the 7:04 mark, but Nikita Jevpalovs wristed his second of the season behind Ivan Kulbakov less than five minutes later while shorthanded to tie the game at one for the Rocket heading into the third.
Michael McNiven, who got his third start in goal for Laval on Saturday, was forced to be sharp in the third period as he turned away two quality scoring chances from the slot despite only facing seven shots in the period. Sixty minutes were not enough to decide a winner, but a late penalty against the Comets gave the Rocket a man-advantage in overtime- where it took Jake Evans only 28 seconds to launch his third of the year to give the Rocket the victory.
"I'm really proud of the guys and how they comport themselves as a team," explained Bouchard after the game in reference to their struggles so far and the relief that came with the victory. "In the American Hockey League, it's not easy. It's a league with internal competition to move up to the National Hockey League, and the guys hold themselves together despite that... It impresses me a lot."
LAV: Jevpalovs | Evans (Belzile, Agostino) | UTI: Darcy (Carcone, MacMaster)
LAV: McNiven (19/20) | UTI: Kulbakov (33/35)
Rocket Powerplay: 1/7 | Rocket Penalty Kill: 5/5
Three Stars :
Kenny Agostino - LAV | 2. Ivan Kulbakov - UTI | 3. Byron Froese - LAV
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